Following the historical pilgrimage of His Holiness Pope John Paul
II to the Holy land, we have to stop for a while in order to meditate
and understand the message addressed to us by the Holy Father when
he visited our Churches, our Holy Places and the sufferings of our peoples.
In a situation which remains a walk towards more light and more justice
for our countries, and towards more awareness of our vocation and of the
meaning of our life as Christians in this Holy Land, the message of the
Pope is, first of all, a prayer. It should begin, end and accompany
all our actions. That was the meaning for us of his long and deep moments
of prayer which isolated him from all those who surrounded him, from their
wish to approach him, to greet him, to touch him, or to protect him. In
that way, he prayed in the principal Holy Places recording the mystery
of human salvation: on Mount Nebo, his first encounter with the mystery
of Revelation in our land, in the grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem,
where he took the time to pray his Office, in the grotto of the Annunciation,
in Gethsemane and in the Cenacle in Jerusalem, and last in the Holy Sepulchre,
before the Tomb and on the Calvary. These were moments of prayer
and silence with God which continued in his encounters with the crowds,
beginning with Madaba, Amman, Jordan Valley, then in Bethlehem, on the
Mountain of Beatitudes and in Nazareth.
Led by the same deep prayer, and by the same presence of God, he wanted
to meet with all. He wanted to meet all Christians at the ecumenical meeting
in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and the visit to the Armenian Patriarchate,
and all religions, each one in his own place of prayer, at the synagogue,
the Wailing Wall, and the esplanade of the Mosque of Omar, and then together
in the interreligious meeting.
Led always by the same deep prayer, and by the same divine presence,
he wanted to meet the sufferings of both peoples living in the land of
his pilgrimage, the Palestinian and the Jewish people. He wanted also to
meet with the political leaders in Jordan, Palestine and Israel, since
these too, with all their responsibilities, were part of his prayer.
3. The message he left for us all is the message of a man filled
with the spirit of God. A message first to the Church of Jerusalem, to
all this Church, in other words to all Christians. All, indeed, faithful,
and very often their hierarchies, have accompanied the pilgrimage of the
Pope: they saw, listened and were impressed. His message to the small flock
was simple: be courageous, accept your vocation and accomplish your mission
in your different societies in the land of Jesus. He confirmed the Catholic
Churches in their synodal journey, and urged us to continue in this path
by the application of the pastoral plan, fruit of the synod. He confirmed
the walk of our Churches towards unity, a walk already begun, though still
hesitant, surrounded by fears and sensitivities.
His was also a message to the Universal Church inviting her to return
to her roots. Indeed as successor of St Peter, he brought with him to this
pilgrimage the whole Church. Seen in this light, his pilgrimage is an invitation
to the Church to remain, somehow in a physical way, closer to the Calvary
and the Resurrection, in her walk towards the future. It is an invitation
also to look at, to know and to better love the mother Church of Jerusalem.
To the religious leaders, Jews and Moslems, who have welcomed him and
listened to him, he reaffirmed the openness, the disposition of the Catholic
Church to listen, and to collaborate for the good of humankind. In our
countries, which are still in quest of peace and justice, he invited
them to act for a just peace. The interreligious meeting which took place
in Jerusalem, which could have appeared to some as a failure, was rather
a success, because it revealed the deepness of the human wound and tearing
in Jerusalem and in the Holy Land. The basis and the conditions of interreligious
dialogue in Jerusalem were revealed: in order to bear fruits, it must begin
by acknowledging this reality and these conditions. An interreligious dialogue
in Jerusalem cannot make abstraction of the human suffering which goes
on in the Holy Land, and of the process of healing of which religious leaders
are in part responsible. It is in a frank and courageous vision of this
common suffering that religious leaders can accomplish their mission and
help political leaders in finding their way for a just and definitive peace.
For us, Churches, the complexity of our ecclesial reality has
been uncovered also, and hence the need for a serious reflection, based
on the same deep and silent prayer of the Holy Father, in order to have
better understanding of the identity and mission of our Church of Jerusalem
towards our own faithful as well as towards the whole Church.
This identity is presently manifested in diversity within the
Catholic Churches, which necessitates a better comprehension and
efficiency in the unity of hearts, a mutual acceptance and a common action
which leads us to express one same word, the word of the Spirit of God,
to our faithful, to the concrete situations of our countries and to the
Churches of the world.
This identity is also manifested in the divisions which should be overcome,
as we wait meanwhile the time of God when he will restore unity in his
Church. Already a great fraternal cordiality exists among the heads of
the Churches in Jerusalem. It should be communicated to all our clergies
and our faithful..
This identity implies also communion with all the Churches of the world.
Jerusalem is the mother Church for her own children living with her in
this land. This applies also to all her children wherever they are, in
whatever situation they be, as history has done and featured them.
This is our first reading of the visit of His Holiness, and we
pray that, with time, it will bear more and more fruits for the benefit
of our churches in the Holy Land.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem